Adventures in Practicing Skepticism: A Post About Toilet Paper

Confession time, people: the other day, I bought a package of Charmin toilet paper.

Not for myself, OK? I bought it for someone else. Don’t look at me like that. I NEVER SAID I WAS A ROLE MODEL.

Oh…wait. You’re not looking betrayed. You’re looking quizzical, as though you have no idea as to why this is something you should care about. Well, pull up a chair and let me spin you a tale from the recent paaaaaaaaast!

*flash back fingers*

A few years ago, on a day quite like this, I was thinking about toilet paper. Before you leave thinking, “Oh great. Get a load of this weirdo. If I wanted to hear about this, I’d go watch ‘Two Girls, One Cup’ again”, allow me to explain. I wasn’t just thinking about toilet paper. I was thinking about why I bought the particular brand I did, since I barely care with what I wipe my butt…unless it’s poison ivy or something. Then I care. But as long as it’s appropriate paper, I’m good.

As it turned out, I had allowed myself to be completely manipulated by advertising campaigns, but perhaps not in the way you might think. I was buying Cottonelle because I hadn’t yet been annoyed by their ad campaigns or packaging imagery. I wrote a blog about it back then and had some pretty strong opinions that I have actually stood by all this time…what I hadn’t realized was that, though my ideas in this matter had validity, I was not approaching it as skeptically as I should.

At the time, I had just started buying toilet paper with a brand name other than the supermarket from which I was buying it. I was all about the econo-brand, but Wes was growing aggravated with the way the two plies would separate while rolling it out. It was true that it would become this whole ordeal akin to something you would see in the “before” images of an infomercial. Toilet paper everywhere, us ineptly trying to get it organized and usable, us looking frustrated and confused and implying that “there’s got to be a better way!”. So it was decided that we could afford name brand toilet paper, and since there wasn’t a brand endorsed or sold by Billy Mays, I was going to have to choose from the standard Leading Brands.

I walked down the toilet paper aisle and began to evaluate my choices. First up: Angel Soft. I hadn’t yet seen a commercial on television for this brand, so I had to go by the packaging. On the front was the logo and a human baby rolling around in clean, fluffy, white toilet paper. I think what I was supposed to get from this was that it was so soft that it could be used on a baby. I went a different direction in my thoughts. “Is it soft like a baby’s ass?” The next logical jump from that would be “Angel Soft, like wiping your ass with a human child”. While some may find that a selling point, I have never yearned for that particular experience. In addition, let’s not forget the word angel here. I resented the religious implications. What do I care if this is the only toilet paper endorsed by angels? Everyone knows angels don’t poop and to imply that they do is complete heresy. HERESY! With all those valid arguments being made, I had to rule out Angel Soft.

Next up: Quilted Northern. I had seen a television commercial about this one and the characters from the commercial were printed on the package. According to the commercial, Quilted Northern is literally sewn by a bunch of old ladies who sit around a quilting table gabbing about…toilet paper. They quilt so that it can have maximum absorbance for us, the consumers, just like that lovely quilt your grandmother made you. Obviously, I couldn’t get the image of wiping my crotchal area with a handmade quilt out of my head. Not only is that gross, but it’s mad disrespectful. YOUR GRANDMOTHER GOT HER THUMB STUCK IN AN ABNORMALLY SMALL THIMBLE MAKING THAT FOR YOU. She was never the same. And you’re going to using that for all the unmentionable business?!? INGRATE. Anyway, since I couldn’t bear to ruin the hard work of all those miniature old ladies, I had to veto Quilted Northern as well.

Next was…Charmin. Of all the brands in the aisle, Charmin is the one that has the ad campaign I hate the most.

Here’s my thing about all ads dealing with bodily functions. Culturally it is rude to talk about them, right? Unless you’re an edgy standup comedian or Dr. Oz apparently. I think it’s dumb that we’re not supposed to talk about them because, like, they are a part of everyone’s existence in some form or another. BUT if you do something like directly talk about pooping, peeing, or the shedding of your uterine lining, on television, angry parents will write angry letters to the network. Or something. I don’t really know what happens. Maybe an Op-Ed gets written in the Inquirer? Whatever. So, in order to avoid these angry letters, ad agencies have to come up with all kinds of cutesy ways to imply what they’re talking about without every really saying it.

Take, for instance, erectile dysfunction medication ads. Have you ever seen so many sight gags in your life? My favorite is the Cialis ad with a dude talking about wanting to be ready for that “special moment” while throwing a football through a tire swing. Stupid enough to make teenagers and adults giggle, vague enough that children won’t be scarred because they won’t know what anyone is talking about.

So when it comes to toilet paper, people really don’t want to talk about butt stuff…or at least, not the majority of people in the mass populace. And with toilet paper, the butt is the universal common denominator.

Heh…butt…denominator. Fractions would have been so much better if they were about butts, amirite?

In terms of plumbing, almost all people have a butt, while the other plumbing down there might differ. Charmin knows this and so their ads are all about the butt. Specifically, they are about bear butts…cartoon bears who shit in the woods.

Charmin’s entire bear ad campaign is about that…proverb? Colloquialism? Saying? Whatever. Think about it. A bunch of highly paid ad consultants were sitting around a table and said, “OK, for the Charmin campaign…what can we do with ‘…does a bear shit in the woods?”. Well! That’s perfect because bears have a really tough time staying tidy when they shit in the woods JUST LIKE YOU, AMERICA.

When I watched these ads, I thought I was watching National Geographic. I had no idea that bears had to deal with such plights as toilet paper being to rough, or toilet paper getting inexplicably stuck to random parts of their ass not involved in actual pooping. I also didn’t know that bears are allowed in local stores in which to purchase their necessary toilet paper. And here I thought bears were a bunch of broke-ass motherfuckers with no sense of decency who just try constantly to steal my picnic baskets and honey.

Before you jump down my throat about suspension of disbelief, yeah, I know. They are cartoon bears who, for no apparent reason, have embraced the human concept of ass wipery (but have decided that houses are a bad scene after the Goldilocks Incident). My annoyance about this entire thing is that everything about the campaign is about shitting and they hide this harsh reality behind demure and easily embarrassed bears, who use the paper and then giggle at each other because poop.

I fully admit that I am giggling while I write this because poop. DAMN YOU CHARMIN FOR UNDERSTANDING THE HUMAN CONDITION.

At the time, I couldn’t bring myself to support those damn bears. All that was left was Cottonelle, which had puppies on it playing around in a similar fashion to the babies on Angel Soft. I think I justified this being OK because if there’s one thing puppies like, it’s rolling around in shit. And then rolling around on everything possible before I grab them and put them in the bath tub. I decided it was best not to think to hard on the implications of the Cottonelle packaging, since I was out of options.

That was a couple of years ago and I have purchased Cottonelle ever since.

So why did I buy some Charmin? Well, last week I was sitting down to dinner with Wes, Jessie, and Jessie’s new beau. I don’t recall how we got on the subject, but I was talking about the blog post I wrote about toilet paper and how I still refuse to buy Charmin because FUCK YOU BEARS. During my tirade, Jessie says something to the effect of “I know the woods shitting bears thing is dumb, but Charmin makes good toilet paper. I hate lint. Charmin does not have lint.”

I was taken aback. “Well, you can buy your own then. Like I said, FUCK THOSE BEARS.” Wes then joined in, “I mean, Gina, the commercials are dumb and there’s nothing wrong with Cottonelle…but I don’t think your arguments in this arena are based on rational thought.” That was paraphrased, but I think that pretty much sums up what he said.

I looked around. My mind was whirling. Had I actually allowed irrationality about the stupidity of an ad campaign stop me from looking into a possibly superior product?!? Well, shit. After thinking in silence and nervously poking at my mashed potatoes for a while, I said, “Yep, I’m being dumb. I’ll get you some Charmin the next time I’m shopping.”

I told someone else that I bought some Charmin and she was like “I hate Charmin. It’s linty and makes me vag itch.” So apparently it’s really all about personal preference.

HOW INCREDIBLY SHOCKING. As for me, I still don’t really care. But I am continuously amused by the types of things that happen when you’re on a journey of personal growth. Conceding that Charmin is probably fine, if not superior toilet paper because my reasons for hating had everything to do with cartoon bears was meaningful, even if incredibly silly.

I’m hoping this means I am getting back into blogging. Nothing gets me blogging more than talking about toilets. That’s what this blog is about, right? Sure.

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